SELC, partners urge cleanup of abandoned mine site polluting Black Warrior River

Above, orange-stained acid mine drainage and polluted runoff from Maxine Mine can be seen entering the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River.  (© Nelson Brooke)

SELC and partners Black Warrior Riverkeeper and Public Justice filed a notice of intent to sue today against Drummond Company for violations at its Maxine Mine site, an abandoned underground coal mine on the banks of the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River near Praco, Alabama.

Though mining at Maxine Mine ceased in the 1980s, acid mine drainage has been illegally discharging from the site into the Locust Fork through surface water runoff and seeps from the underground mine for years. The site also presents a substantial imminent harm to human health and the environment due to the storage of tons of mining waste known as geologic overburden, or “GOB,” on a bluff above the Locust Fork. 

The site currently consists of underground mine works, surface piles of mining waste, and a system of man-made drainage ditches and earthen dams used to create sediment basins for runoff from the waste piles. The basins are continuously leaking polluted water and the dams are holding acidic coal mine drainage and waste. 

The main dam by the river is deteriorating and could potentially breach, resulting in a large release of pollutants into the Locust Fork, a primary tributary of the Black Warrior River and a popular area for fishing, boating and other forms of outdoor recreation.

The Maxine Mine site is one of the worst of hundreds of abandoned mines in the Black Warrior basin, many of which continue to degrade streams and contaminate groundwater with unpermitted discharges containing high levels of sediment, heavy metals such as iron and aluminum, and other pollutants.

To address the ongoing pollution and storage of coal mine waste on the Locust Fork, the groups are seeking removal of the mining waste, excavation and/or remediation of contaminated streams, and any other appropriate measures by Drummond to immediately stop all illegal discharges at the site.

“Leaving this site without cleaning up piles of mining waste and polluted sediment, and without taking appropriate measures to stop the flow of acid mine drainage from the basins and ditches left behind is simply unacceptable,” said SELC Senior Attorney Barry Brock. “Until the ongoing pollution at the Maxine Mine site is adequately addressed, it continues to pose a threat to water quality, and the communities and wildlife in the area that depend on clean water.”

 

Click here to read the notice letter.

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